Minister’s speech on Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations

I’ve written a lot about the Strengthening Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations (DPULO) programme I’m involved with. This includes, for example, writing about what a DPULO is.

The programme is based at the Office for Disability Issues & Independent Living. Last week, the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, spoke at the Annual General Meeting of Surrey Coalition of Disabled People, an excellent DPULO in the south east.

Thus, below is an extract from the speech the Minister gave, where she talks about the programme.

It is the Government’s priority to make sure we support disabled people throughout the country to make their own choices and have control over their own lives so that they can reach their full potential.

The sort of control that, I think in Surrey, you clearly have, through the support you get from the Surrey Coalition

We aim to do this by working with disabled people to co-produce policy and make sure that we work together to design the programmes that we hope will support disabled people to reach that potential.

I know the Surrey Coalition has been involved in this work, as well as providing important on-the-ground support to disabled people. Your work makes a huge difference to disabled people’s lives every single day.

And that should be celebrated and I hope part of your AGM is about celebrating that. Because user led organisations, like the Surrey Coalition are a key part of the co-production of policy.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People stipulates specifically that Government must consider how new policies affect disabled people. The best way to do that, I think, is to ensure disabled people are involved at the start of the process. Now Government is getting a bit better at doing this but I’m sure we could do a lot better.

We need to really take our lead from organisations like you by making sure disabled people are involved in developing policies and services right from the start. User led organisations like you are really important in that process. I want to make sure that up and down the country disabled people have the same opportunities as the disabled people in Surrey do. And have access to strong and robust user led organisations like you clearly have here, in this part of the world.

That’s why we have decided that, although we’ve got lots of pressures on our money at the moment, we will take £3 million and invest in developing user led organisations.

Richard Watts from [Essex Coalition of Disabled People] has been selected to join us as joint National Lead to get this project off the ground. And he will work in partnership with the Office for Disability Issues, which many of you might know is part of the Government’s support for disabled people. In addition we have appointed 12 ambassadors broadly representing every bit of England to support him in this work – including three in the South East.

We have already agreed some really clear actions as a result of this.

We have a pot of money which we are using to help user led organisations to get up to speed and to be really active. We have already agreed payments from a facilitation fund that is part of the project.

This includes money for an interactive smart board for a group called Voice for All [s]o this group, which is made up of people with learning disabilities, can take greater control over their communications and be less reliant on other people. The facilitation fund has also agreed to provide funding for mentor support for young people with learning disabilities who run a radio show for people with learning disabilities in Oxfordshire.

It’s really important for organisations to get this support but also for established organisations, like you, to be able to share your knowledge and expertise so we can have a really strong national network of user led organisations, for everyone to benefit from.

I know here in Surrey you already work very closely with the local authority. That’s something I’d like to see more of in other parts of the country. It is good practice and I think that’s the sort of thing that this project will help to spread. I would also like to commend the Surrey Coalition for your involvement in the South East Network of Disabled People’s Organisations… It is strong networks like yours that will enable user led organisations to both support disabled people and help everybody better influence policy.